2020: A Meme Essay

2020: A Meme Essay

Bored panda

2020 was … well, it happened. We don’t have to talk about it. But is it too early to laugh about it? In the spirit of the internet and the unique way memes can unite us in relatable camaraderie, here is an overview of this historic junk year narrated in memes, tiktoks, tweets, and other pointless content.

Caution: Some news events have been purposely removed from this roundup because they are just too raw to make fun of. Looking back this year is supposed to be a comic relief, not an invalidation of the seriousness of these world events.

None of the memes voiced in this article reflect the giggles or giggles of Forbes.com.


It quickly became clear that 2020 would not be anyone’s year.

2020 couldn't possibly be that bad


It seems like a long time since the US killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in an air strike in Baghdad, and everyone thought World War III and a draft of American citizens into the army were imminent.

Leaked 2020 memes WWIII


The impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump began on January 16 in the Senate. Understanding that these procedures were purely performative, the Internet did it by remembering Nancy Pelosi and digging up Trump’s notes in Sharpie that he had previously written in Speak to Reporters.

We really heard about coronavirus for the first time in January, and it’s almost cute to look back and reflect on our naivety when we were worried about the slow shipping of our goods from China.

Coronavirus, my order from want.com meme


Australia was really on fire, but Australians still found time to get ScoMos (Prime Minister Scott Morrison) the piss off the fires and take a Hawaii vacation in the middle of the crisis.


Trump delivered his State of the Union speech on February 4th, which Nancy Pelosi immediately tore up and referred to as a “manifesto of error”. Trump was acquitted of two impeachment trials the next day.


You know … Rona really came for us all in March. But damn it, if we haven’t found a way to overcome this icy tension with some high quality memes about hand sanitizer, toilet paper, quarantine, and zoom calls.

Coronavirus memes with Kanye West created by the meme account @MasiPopal

Coronavirus memes with Kanye West created by the meme account @MasiPopal


Remember when we all agreed against this blatant video of celebs butchering John Lennon’s “Imagine”?

Oh, and Tiger King! The perfect slice of Americana to distract us all from the nightmare ahead.

Steve Irwin versus Tiger King memes

Be calm and take my money


The quarantine continues, bread-baking begins. April was the month we spent one day being thankful that we had time to grow our spring onions back (FINALLY), the next between sobbing and laughing at our own depression, the next to worry about that clearest skies in our lives, and the next one who wonders if Trump thinks we think 1200 dollars is a lot of money. But regardless of how you spent your time, you never knew what time it was.

Stimulus check memes

r / TrumpVirus


The first murder hornets were sighted in the United States in May. This is around the time when most people began preparing for an inevitable alien invasion, or simply turning a blind eye to the horrors of the world …

Murder Hornet Meme Don Draper

MurderHornetMemes via Facebook

… That is, until all of our eyes were opened when George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. The collective anger at seeing a police officer kneel by the neck of an unarmed man for nearly nine minutes, a pandemic that took disproportionately high levels of work and life among black Americans, sparked protests and riots in Minneapolis that led to a demand for justice and racial justice across the country and around the world.

Freelance designer Shirien Damra's homage to George Floyd has more than 3.4 million likes on Instagram

Freelance designer Shirien Damra’s homage to George Floyd has more than 3.4 million likes … [+] Instagram

Shirien Damra


Protests against Black Lives Matter escalated as protesters yelled to disappoint police and demanded justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a number of other black citizens killed by police. Even amid a movement as pure as civil rights, cynicism found a home in meme culture as people posted black squares on Instagram and companies filled our inboxes with dubious promises to support black lives.

is that activism black square BLM meme


visual representation of companies sending their BLM email meme



July brought a series of whirlpools as the BLM protests continued alongside the anti-mask protests. There has been a great deal of misinformation about wearing masks that has been widely spread by the Trump family (see below). Social media influencers gathered for irresponsible parties and Mary Trump gave the public some juicy gossip about what Donnie was like as a child demon. Companies removed their ads from Facebook to protest the social network’s poor handling of hate speech, but unfortunately it didn’t hurt Zuck’s fortunes.

A screenshot of a post by Donald Trump Jr. suggesting wearing a mask will not help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

A screenshot of a post by Donald Trump Jr. that appears to suggest wearing a mask doesn’t help … [+] Stop the spread of the coronavirus, a belief that has been normalized in the White House. By October, at least three dozen people in Trump’s orbit had become infected with the virus.

Donald Trump Jr.’s Facebook page

zuckerberg too rich meme

Posted by u / NotAVirus_dot_exe

Reddit, r / memes


With this summer heat came the fire song of 2020: WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Some (me) might say that this song, from the music video to the lyrics to the related conversations, was the 2020 song of 2020. It was culturally on par with Tiger King’s late-stage capitalism, but far more controversial. Depending on who you asked, WAP is either a sex positive, feminist anthem or a degeneration of polite society. And if you ask right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro about the soggy subject of this ballad, you might get a gynecological diagnosis. The best he could do with his limited experience.

Ben Shapiro Wap


That same month, Axios political correspondent Jonathan Swan interviewed Trump about his dealings with the coronavirus and the upcoming election, in which Swan refused to entertain Trump’s lies. The conversation was as entertaining as it was shocking, even by today’s standards of sensationism, and made for many good memes, such as the cross-reference jibes below.


As if we hadn’t burned enough of the planet with the fires in Australia, “smoke produced by a pyrotechnic device” caused massive forest fires that scorched 4 million acres of land at a gender reveal party in California (the most burning state in America) have the time of this writing. The internet responded accordingly.

September 18th marked the tragic death of the infamous RBG, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and a reminder to all of us that this year could actually get worse.

The first presidential debate ended in a month, an event many of us fingered in horror when those fingers did not tweet live angry at the worsening of the structured debate and moderator Chris Wallace’s inability to keep Trump under control and that unpleasant sound of old white men talking about each other.

In short, memes were the only good thing about this debate.


Many of us awoke to news reports on October 2 that President Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. Was that karma for Trump’s consistent assertion that the coronavirus was a hoax and wearing masks was unnecessary, or a long gimmick that would leave Trump alive to discredit the severity of the virus? Still unclear, but Occam’s razor is telling us to look for the simplest answer, which is that he’s likely caught the virus but has the medical support most Americans can’t afford to keep him going.

The Vice Presidential Debate between VP Mike Pence and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took place on October 7th. The event was marked by Pence’s frequent interruptions to Harris and Harris’ barely contained cynicism. But the real star of the show was the fly that landed and stayed on Pence’s white hair for a few minutes while the two discussed racism and police.


After a major tightening of the sphincter muscles as the election results took days to complete, many across the country breathed a sigh of relief when Joe Biden won. And he won again and again when Trump refused to accept defeat, requested recounts in key battlefield states, and falsely claimed fraud.

Things looked really good in November when Pfizer announced a few days after Biden’s victory that its vaccine, which was developed with German biotech company BioNTech, was over 90% effective.


The UK was the first country to approve the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, sparking a wave of celebratory memes.

But then a new strain of coronavirus was discovered in the UK, causing many countries to ban incoming flights to contain the tide.

Also, to add insult to injury at the time of this writing, the UK is likely to leave the European Union without a deal by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence became the senior member of the Trump administration in America to receive the vaccine, rather than on live television, causing anger among key workers at the irony of the Pence vaccination in front of them and confusion among anti-Vaxxers, who looked up to pence symbolizing many of the conspiracy theories that are close to their hearts.

2020, the worst year in modern history?

Obviously not. (See: 1918, The Spanish Flu; 1940-41, The Blitz; 1941-1945, The Holocaust; 1945, The Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombings; etc.)

Still, we’re glad it’s over. We hope that 2021 is actually our year.

Drake 2021